Houston Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole prepares to pitch against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning in Game 2 of a baseball American League Championship Series on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Cole struggles in 2nd playoff start with Astros

October 14, 2018 - 10:37 pm

BOSTON (AP) — Gerrit Cole struggled at the beginning of his second playoff start with the Houston Astros.

By the time he recovered, it was too late. Boston was well on its way to a big win.

Cole's electric fastball was lined all over Fenway Park and he also committed a costly error in his first career appearance in the AL Championship Series, losing 7-5 to the Red Sox in Game 2 on Sunday.

One night after Justin Verlander pitched Houston to a 7-2 victory in the series opener, Cole was unable to duplicate the success of his fellow hard-throwing right-hander. The 28-year-old Cole allowed a season-high five runs and six hits — all of them on fastballs — in six innings.

Game 3 is Tuesday in Houston.

Cole went 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA in his first season with Houston after he was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh, helping the World Series champion Astros return to the playoffs with a second straight AL West title.

He was terrific in the AL Division Series against Cleveland, striking out 12 while pitching seven innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory in Game 2. He joined Hall of Famer Tom Seaver as the only players to strike out at least 12 without walking a batter in the postseason.

He had a completely different performance against the high-scoring Red Sox.

Looking amped and jittery, Cole allowed his first run on his sixth pitch of the game. Mookie Betts drove his 3-1 pitch off the wall in center, and Andrew Benintendi followed with an RBI single.

After J.D. Martinez lined to second, Cole picked up Xander Bogaerts' bouncer in front of the mound and threw wildly to first for an error. The miscue helped set up Rafael Devers' RBI single.

Houston tried to pick up Cole with two runs in the second and third, but he was unable to hold onto the 4-2 lead.

Jackie Bradley Jr. put Boston ahead to stay with a three-run double off the Green Monster with two out in the third. Cole walked Devers on four pitches and struck out Ian Kinsler swinging before Bradley's big blow.

After Boston took its 5-4 lead, Cole struck out Christian Vazquez to end the inning and retired his next nine batters before he was lifted from just his third career start at Fenway.

Cole was 2-2 with a 3.13 ERA in four career playoff starts coming into the night.

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